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The New Arab

Syrian regime prepares for 'open battle' with Idlib rebels

35,000 rebel civilians and fighters were evacuated to Idlib in December [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2017

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A senior Syrian minister has warned that Damascus is preparing to send thousands of troops to Idlib region in the coming months in order to end the rebellion.
The Syrian regime is preparing for "open battle" with rebels in northwest Idlib province, the minister for national reconciliation has said.

Damascus is preparing to send thousands of troops to the same area that rebel civilians and fighters were evacuated to from Aleppo, said Ali Haidar.

"The Syrian state is clear in its policy when it said it will not forego any patch of Syria, and I think Idlib is one of the coming hot areas," Haidar told Reuters on Thursday.

The region of Idlib has become of the few areas in Syria that remains under rebel control, as rebels are transported to the area following surrender deals with the regime.

Rebels from the Damascus suburb, Daraya, 300km to the south, were evacuated to Idlib province in August 2016, along with the majority of the 35,000 civilians and soldiers evacuated from Aleppo in December.

Some of these rebel groups are a party to the ceasefire deal ahead of peace talks in Kazakhstan on 23 January, however the large majority do not recognise the ceasefire.

The Islamist coalition groups, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra) are not party to the ceasefire and have continued fighting since the peace deal.

In a statement released on 4 January, Hossam al-Shafei, a spokesman for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham rejected the peace deal as a "humiliating" mistake that only helped Russia further its "occupation of Syria".

The minister said that rebel fighters must leave the area presently and called for Turkey to cut off all rebel supply lines from the north.

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